The Great Book Shift

The Great Book Shift, also known as the Great B.S., is a task I undertake whenever I acquire a vast quantity of new books. During this past vacation I bought books on a number of subjects: the Berlin Wall; regional German idioms (including books on Berliner Deutsch, Kölsch, and vanishing GDR-speak); Finnish language aids and comparative dictionaries as well as books (in German) on the Flemish and Greenlandic languages. The job of interfiling all these books is daunting. I like to avoid it; thus any new acquisitions in the months leading up to my vacation merely sat on the floor of my library. I didn’t want to shift everything in order to interfile those, only to have to repeat the same upheaval once I got back from vacation.

While I am not a degreed librarian, I do have a sense of subject order based on the Dewey Decimal System, especially when it comes to language classification. I like to organize my language books by linguistic family as Dewey does. Thus the Germanic languages are all filed together, with German first, followed by Dutch, Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. Romance languages follow the Germanic, and the next books you see on my shelves are French, Italian, Corsican and Romanian. 

However there are exceptions to this Dewey rule: the languages that I actively study precede all the others and my language library starts with Finnish, then Romansch, then Breton. Any languages that are members of the same families as Finnish, Romansch or Breton follow those books. Thus Estonian follows Finnish; other Romansch idioms follow Sursilvan, the particular idiom I study; and Manx follows Breton. Since Finnish is the first language on my shelves, any new Finnish acquisition necessitates the shifting of the whole collection: a task I dread for all the work involved. I was keen on getting the job done since I did not want to have to stare at an even larger pile of books on the floor of my library. Another motivating factor is how pleased I felt when I got the last Great Book Shift done: the shelves were all flush with perfectly-aligned books and the floor was finally so bare you could lie down and make snow angels (if there was snow). So I worked on it Wednesday and Thursday and by 01.45 (literally on Friday) I was finished. This must be a new record for me to interfile a whole suitcase full of books. It looks great and so neat, and I know exactly where every new book is.

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